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Life at the lake

Build yourself an igloo

The Magic Igloo Maker in actionAs a kid I remember thinking how cool it would be to live in an igloo (although at the time I couldn’t figure out how a structure built from ice would be warm.  I posted more information over at Jordon Cooper Outfitters.

Vacation 2010

Wendy and I have been talking about vacation plans in 2010.  We are starting now because 2009 was a vacation debacle.  Three of the four extended times away I had to come into work.  It wasn’t so much works fault but staff were sick or injured and we didn’t have enough staff at the time to make things work.

This year I have some structural changes that I am initiating that should make our structure look less like a deck of cards and I can get away without being under stress or putting people under stress (or at least compensating them to be under stress).

The only firm dates we have booked at for the 50th Anniversary of Arlington Beach (and the 100th Anniversary of the Arlington Beach House) which should be interesting.  I’ll be honest, the best part about Arlington Beach is the amazing quiet.  I am told that we are in the quietest part of Arlington Beach but it doesn’t get much louder wherever you are.  It should be a little noiser that week in July but on the flipside, we get to see a lot of friends.

The other place I really want to go is to Johnston Canyon with Wendy and the boys this summer.  We have been talking about this for a while and we are thinking of stopping in Drumheller so Mark can check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum and I want to check out an abandoned coal mine outside of Drumheller.

Then the idea is to push through Calgary, see some friends and then head to Banff for a day of hiking and exploring before tackling Johnston Canyon the next day.  I am tempted to tempt fate and try doing this in September when the weather is still nice (hopefully) and the crowds are a lot less.

Mark has never seen the mountains before so this would be a great time to teach him that hills are not mountains and he should never call Mount Blackstrap, “Mount Blackstrap” and keep a straight face while doing it.

I am trying to convince Wendy that we need to go Victoria this spring but we’ll see how that goes.

Why Jordon Cooper Outfitters?

A couple of you have asked what my plan is for Jordon Cooper Outfitters as it hasn’t made a lot of sense for some of you as to why I have done it and why I am only posting once a day.  Here is the short answer.

  • I am posting once a day because it is easy to set up a posting schedule with WordPress.  Right now I have posts set up to go five days a week into early March which means that I don’t have to worry about the site every day like I do with this one.  As the content is added to the site, it will be formed into other content like gift guides, seasonal guides, and best of lists.  Look for those lists to start as we start to escape winter and then for things like Mother’s Day days like that. 
  • The site won’t be an instant success because there really isn’t that much content.  It’s funny because most of the questions that I get about blogging often deal with SEO stuff which is a craft that I have never cared about.  Blogging is pretty simple.  Write well, post it online and if people find it worthwhile, you will generate readers.  We’ll see if people find Jordon Cooper Outfitters worth reading.  If not, I’ll have learned a lot about a topic that interests me.
  • The most encouraging stat about the site is the amount of people who have subscribed to the RSS feed.
  • Advertising on While I get a small commission from linking to and, it isn’t going to pay any bills.  I may add some advertising but even with 1000 people a day coming by the site, that isn’t going to pay very many bills either so there isn’t a great business plan.  If I add advertising, it will be discrete like what you would see on or The Morning News.  There will never be ads all over any site that I curate.  It will never ever happen.
  • I will be trail testing some items this summer.  Mark and I planning to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin this summer and I hope to hit Johnson’s Canyon as well in addition to a lot of mountain bike riding. I’ll let you know how those go.
  • I am open to other people contributing to Jordon Cooper Outfitters.  If you are interested, drop me a line.

Where’s my hat?

For the last couple of years I have been looking for an outdoor hat.  I know I used to live in Calgary but I haven’t own a cowboy hat since a certain green velour cowboy hat in the early 80s and I don’t intend to go down that road again.  Even if elected to high office in Canada and needing to go to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede, I would not wear a cowboy hat.

Bosun HatI have worn ball hats ever since then and they have served me well.  After burning my ears and neck this year at the lake, I decided to go with something else.  I was running some errands and decided to go out to Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters today.  Generally I don’t enjoy Outdoor Outfitters as most of the guys in there are trying to purchase firearms, including a surprising amount of guys looking for hand guns.  To be honest, not many of them inspire confidence in their ability to handle even a airsoft gun.

Today we went in there and it was really quiet and outside of the guy in front of my spending $2,000 on a rifle and scope, there weren’t even guys shopping for guns and I didn’t have that normal feeling that I was going to be shot by a stray bullet.  Wendy had far too much fun looking at Christmas ornaments with Santa Claus in a variety of hunting and fishing roles and I found a bosun hat that should keep the sun off.  Now I did try on a couple of Tilley hats and are they spectacular.  I didn’t want to shell out $80 for a hat but if I was so inclined, they would be the hat that I would purchase.  They fit and look great.  However since I am going to wear it while out hiking or working outside at the cabin, it wasn’t really won’t get enough use to justify the price.

As I was walking out of there, I realized that Wendy has a similar hat and Mark has a camouflage one.  We are going to have to coordinate which days we wear them as we go out.  Either that or I am at risk of being kicked out of the Wiserhood.

Thanksgiving at Arlington Beach

Thanksgiving at Arlington Beach

Here is the larger context.


Survivorman Logo Well Mark went Halloweening as Survivorman tonight.  I am not sure where the idea came from (other than we watch the show around here every night on OLN but then again, he didn’t ask to go as Jason Hawes or Grant Wilson from Ghost Hunters). 

We went over the Dollarama and got him an appropriate bandana and a walking stick (he had a multi-tool already).  Wendy put some makeup on him and he looked like he was ready to go out and survive for 7 days without food or water.  The main difference between Mark and Les Stroud is that Mark started went out Halloweening to get his food supplies while Survivorman has to eat grasshoppers, scorpions, and the occasional snake.


Speaking of eating grasshoppers; Mark and I were watching Survivorman the other night and he was in the desert of Arizona where he was dining on a couple of them.  This is the dialogue that started afterwards.

Mark: I could do that next summer at the cabin.

Jordon: Do what?

Mark: Eat a grasshopper.  They are everywhere.

Jordon: You are going to eat a grasshopper?!

Mark: Yeah, you just take the head off it and the stomach comes out.

Jordon: I was just watching that with you.

Mark: It will be cool.

Jordon: If you go through with it, I will give you $10.

Mark: Awesome, I can eat a grasshopper and get $10.

Silence for a while as Survivorman comes back on television.

Mark: Don’t tell Mom that I am going to eat a grasshopper.

Jordon: I am so telling Wendy that you are going to eat a grasshopper and if you do, it will go on YouTube.

Mark: YouTube, this is going to be awesome.

Jordon: I had a dog that used to eat grasshoppers. 

Mark: Did it sick from tapeworms?

Jordon: I think survival rules are different for dogs.  They eat everything.

As for how Halloween went… it was too cold and miserable to take Oliver out in it and I doubt if we had 30 kids all night come to the door.  Oliver spent his entire night trying to get into the candy and then get away fast enough to a place where he could take the wrapper off of it.

What did you read this summer?

I never read much this summer (compared to other summers at least) but I did get some reading done.  Here is the list. 

So what did you read?  Any recommendations for the fall?

Why I Love Dopplr

My personal velocity

Dopplr I have become a big fan of Dopplr over the last years.  It’s a service that allows you to plan and share your trips online.  It also does some fun things like track your personal velocity which as you can see, isn’t that impressive (Joi Ito’s personal velocity is that of a Whippet while Larry Lessig’s is the same as an elephant while Wendy’s is the same as a glacier) and also shows how much carbon you are emitting.image

It also ties into Flickr and shows your photos for each of your previous trips.

Like all Web 2.0 sites, it allows you to share data with your friends and also contribute reviews of restaurants, places to explore, and places to stay when you travel.  It uses Flickr’s machine tags to link your own photos of places to places where you have been.  I have contributed to places all over the world but if you look at Arlington Beach on Dopplr, you can see how it works in a local community.

Dopplr app for iPhone and iPod Touch For those of you with an iPod Touch or a iPhone, there is also a great Dopplr app that allows you to find attractions and reviews of sites in your area.  I would have loved to have it when I was Chicago earlier this year.

One of the reason however that I have become a big fan of Dopplr is that as a family, it gives us a chance to visualize what the next couple of months have in store for us.  It let’s us look at our schedule, budget, plans, and goals and helps us find when we can go to the lake, do some travelling, and figure out when work is going to put demands on us.  Wendy is using Dopplr now as well and even Mark is going online to check out hers or my profiles to figure out when he needs to be packed.

The other cool way Dopplr is helpful is their annual report that is generated for all users.  Below is one for Barack Obama which gives you an idea of how much travelling he had to do in his run for President of the United States.

2008 Personal annual report for Barack Obama on Dopplr

My friend Dan Sheffield who works for the Free Methodist Church in Canada uses Dopplr.  Dan’s world travels would make his annual report fascinating (to me anyways).  It reminded me that it would be an effective for any denominational executive or someone who both had to travel a lot and be responsible to a constituency. 

I would love to see my city councilor, MLA, MP, and other elected officials use Dopplr (I would give bonus points to anyone who actually gave honest reviews that made my travelling easier).  If you are using Dopplr and want to connect with me, you can find me at

What a Saskatchewan sunset sounds like

The panting you hear at the start is Maggi running by looking for someone to play fetch with.

The death of legalism?

While up at the lake, we ran low on homogenized milk for Oliver and needed to get some on Sunday.  We drove out of Arlington Beach to the one horse town of Cymric.  There is a store in Cymric but they don’t have whole milk.  Instead of turning right to Strasbourg, we went left to Govan.  Govan was totally shut down.  Not a thing was open.  We then drove 20 kilometres to Nokomis where again the entire town was shut down except for one gas station and it was closed down for lunch.  Still no milk.  So we headed back to Cymric where Wendy wandered into the store and the owner phoned down to Digger’s in Strasbourg to make sure there was milk for Oliver. (Map of our route).  A quick look at Google Maps, shows that we took 126 kilometres to get 4 litres of milk and an Oreo ice cream bar.

The Treat Spot at Arlington Beach

Of course as we got back to the cabin, Mark wanted to go to the local ice cream stand which was open on a Sunday afternoon.  After sending him down on his bike to confirm the unthinkable (that in one of the mecca’s of Free Methodism, commerce would be allowed on Sunday), we all went down and had ice cream on Sunday at the Treat Spot (you can also find it on Dopplr).  The kicker would have been if they had whole milk but they didn’t but we did grab some pop, a game of mini-golf, and found a nice cool summer breeze.

Growing up, my mom talked about the first time she was allowed to get an ice cream cone on a hot Sunday and what a big deal that was.  Somewhere in heaven she is celebrating the fact that even Arlington Beach is now cool with having ice cream on a Sunday afternoon.

Back from the lake

We are back in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks before we head back to the lake for another week.  While we were up there, I took a couple of photos and uploaded them to Flickr.

Here is our gazebo at night. Even before we bought it, Wendy purchased some wicker lights and the star tea light holder at Jysk. We added a couple of lanterns and it gives off a nice cozy feel once the sun goes down.

The gazebo at nightThis is what the cabin looks like from the backyard at night.

The cabin at night

Despite the photo, it was Mark and I who got some mini golfing in.  Mark isn’t acknowledging who won and who lost.

August Long Weekend at the Cabin

And Hutch continues to prove why he is the world’s dumbest dog.  Just seconds before this photo, the dog was crying because a quad drove slowly by within 20 feet of him.  That was all that happened and Hutch wept and incapacitated by fear.  Oliver doesn’t look really pleased that there is a dog in his wagon.
August Long Weekend at the Cabin
We did take some time to walk along the beach.
August Long Weekend at the CabinI mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we took a queen sized bed up to the lake and barely managed to get it inside our bedroom.  Like Pierre Trudeau I believe that government should not be involved in what happens in a bedroom but in this case I thought I would make an exception and post a photo.

Our rather cramped master bedroomThere is about three feet alongside the bed and about 4 inches between the end of the bed and the wall.  It’s a cozy fit but it works.   It also means that Wendy and I can sleep without the fear of falling out of our old three quarter bed.

See you later

Wendy and I are off to the cabin for a while.  No big agenda, no major projects (other than some painting) but just some vacation time as a family.  The plan is to eat some good food, check out North America’s oldest bird sanctuary, race some remote controlled cars, read a couple of books while chilling in the gazebo, and spending some quality hours handing out with the dogs and the boys in the lake. 

No phone, no cell coverage, (oddly there is wifi), and no distractions.  Cue up the “Life at the Lake” playlist on my iPod…

One year later

A friend of mine asked me the other day if we had any regrets about purchasing our cabin last summer.  The discussion revolved around the size, the restrictions on use, and the idea of the being permanently anchored to one place for vacation.

The Size

There are four of us using under 300 square feet.  As you can imagine, it is a bit crowded with three beds, four people, and two dogs.

Instead of planning any addition, we are working at adding some outside space.  The gazebo will feature two resin Adirondack and two Cape Cod chairs along with a small coffee table.  The cabin isn’t insulated which means that it gets pretty warm in the summer.  We added a dual action window fan which makes a big difference in cooling down the cabin at night but the gazebo is where we plan to spend our evenings.

For the mornings, we are adding a small patio in the front.  We had talked about building a full deck but we settled on paving blocks.  The patio won’t be any larger than enough space to put a bistro table and two chairs out front.  I know that doesn’t leave Oliver and Mark with a chair but we won’t worry about that until they star drinking tea and coffee to start out their morning.  Plus, it may not be the worse thing to have a portion of the property that is for adults, at least for part of the day.

During the dry summer months, Mark crashes outside in his three person tent where he seems happy.  Of course once he gets too much older and his feet hang out of the end.  When that happens we will either explore the idea of adding an out building, putting up a Boler or a tent trailer, or just getting a bigger tent.

Some have asked if the four of us could live up there and with some interior renovations we could in that amount of space.  We have talked about adding a loft and with one it would work okay.  It would necessitate a much simpler lifestyle but as many have shown, it is possible to live in something smaller than a McMansion.

Restrictions on Use

One of the conditions on the lease is that it is alcohol free.  I don’t really have a problem with that.  Arlington Beach was originally a Free Methodist camp and it is a part of the holiness movement heritage.  Wendy and I very rarely consume anything alcoholic and so to be alcohol free is no big deal.  The upside of this is that I don’t have to worry about Mark getting into any alcohol or getting harassed by some drunk while he is walking to the washroom.  While people are up late sitting around a bonfire or drinking coffee, it is a different kind of noise that you get when the booze is flowing freely.  The only impact it has is on my plans for beer can chicken at the lake.  Of course I have been told by several beer drinkers that one should never waste a beer on a chicken and one can get the same impact from alcohol free beer or even water in a can.

Attached to one place

I love to travel with the family so I thought this would really bother me but it hasn’t.  The ability to get away to another place is a big plus for us.  We had talked about buying a Boler, small RV, or just tenting equipment before we got this but in the end, this was the right investment for us (I am not a big fan of tenting and I am not sure the idea of a Boler and a campground was going to work either).  We are still planning to get away to Victoria in the fall but it does give us a place to spend our vacation time this summer without worrying about expenses.  It also serves a base to attend Saskatchewan Roughriders games with it only being an hour away from Taylor Field Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field.  As I mentioned Regina is an hour away and the drive to Moose Jaw through the Qu’Appelle Valley is stunning.  If you haven’t seen the book Scenic Saskatchewan Drives, it offers several amazing day trips around Saskatchewan and many of them are easily accessible from the cabin.

So a year later and I don’t have a lot of regrets in making the investment.  The cabin is pretty modest and it fit our budget. It was recently appraised at being worth $2,000 by the local R.M. and even with having a large lot, it is worth well under $5,000 which is many times more money than we paid for it.

While last year it felt like we were still heading to a vacation property, this year it has become more like home.  The paint is ours, Mark has his own bed, the other beds and kitchen have been upgraded and improved.  While not quite the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis, Massachusetts or the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, it is ours and for right now, it’s a pretty good fit for the family.

Interior of the cabin in 2009 Interior of the cabin in 2009  The Gazebo going up in 2009 The kitchen in 2009 Saskatchewan Roughriders BBQ cover in 2009 Mark at the marina in 2008 Mark at the marina in 2008 Maggi at Arlington Beach in 2008 The backyard of the cabin in 2008 Oliver and me at the cabin in 2008 The painted after it was painted in 2008 The painted after it was painted in 2008

The Gazebo

After looking for around for almost two years, we finally decided on a gazebo for the cabin.  We took it up on Thursday night and installed it on Friday.  After a couple of hours screwing things together, it was up, anchored, and ready for us to use it the next time we go up.

It’s 10×10 which almost doubles the amount of living space we have at the lake and more importantly gives a place to beat the heat.

A screened in gazebo at the lake

We haven’t decided yet but we may install a privacy wall or two.

Maggi at the lake

Maggi at Last Mountain Lake

We had Maggi out at the lake two weekends ago.  The great retriever lacks the elevation to find her Frisbee when it gets tossed out in the water sometimes and here she heading back to shore so she can get a couple of feet higher and find the disc.   I am not sure if she got it this time or if Mark and I had to go get it for here as there was probably 100 or so tosses out there before she was satisfied with her swim.